Pacific Northwest storm causes flooding, slides, shuts roads

Snow turned to rain and continued to fall across the Pacific Northwest, causing flooding, landslides and avalanche danger in the mountains

Via AP news wire
Friday 07 January 2022 22:48
Northwest Storm
Northwest Storm

Snow and rain continued to fall across the Pacific Northwest on Friday, forcing the closure of parts of Washington state's two major highways — Interstate 90 and Interstate 5 — and causing flooding that swamped roads and closed schools in parts of Oregon

In southwestern Washington's Lewis County, a 20-mile (32-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 5 had been closed in both directions south of Chehalis because of flooding from the Chehalis River. All lanes of Interstate 5 in that area reopened Friday afternoon, according to Washington state Patrol Trooper Will Finn, who said other roads in that area were still experiencing flooding.

The major route across Washington’s Cascades — I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass — closed Thursday due to avalanche danger, heavy snow and low visibility. Stevens Pass on U.S. 2, White Pass on U.S. 12 and Blewett Pass on U.S. 97 also closed Thursday.

Transportation officials say the four mountain passes that connect Western Washington with Eastern Washington likely would remain closed until Sunday because of dangerous conditions.

Part of one of the only other roads crossing the state, State Route 14 on the Washington side of the Columbia River, closed Friday because of a fatal crash near Lyle, Finn said.

Washington State University canceled classes Monday and Tuesday to allow students ample time to return to Pullman in Eastern Washington following the week of severe winter weather, officials said on the university's website.

Near Stevens Pass northeast of Seattle the city of Leavenworth declared a state of emergency and asked for National Guard help after 3 feet (91 centimeters) of snow fell in 24 hours.

City leaders are concerned about the weight of snow on buildings and homes, KCPQ-TV reported.

In Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood, firefighters responded to a home that slid down a hillside. Live video from KING5-TV appeared to show crews rescuing a person and working to extinguish a fire just outside the home.

A man trapped in the home's basement was extricated, according to the Seattle Fire Department. A woman escaped on her own while one dog died and another is missing, firefighters said.

Dozens of watches and warnings were in effect in Washington and Oregon, including a flood warning for the northern Oregon Coast following huge amounts of rainfall.

The National Weather Service said Hoquiam, Washington, received a record 5.78 inches (14.68 centimeters) of rain Thursday. Other areas saw nearly half of the rain they’d expect to see for the month of January in one day, according to the weather service.

Southwest Washington experienced its worst flooding in a decade and some rivers crested at more than 18 feet (5.5 meters) late Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

East of Seattle on Friday, parts of downtown Issaquah were closed after Issaquah Creek sent water over the roads. At least one apartment building was evacuated after the creek spilled over its banks and into the parking lot under the complex.

People in Issaquah worked through the night into Friday to place sandbags to prevent waters from Issaquah Creek from flooding their homes and property. The creek was expected to crest Friday as a cold front sweeps through and pushes the precipitation east.

In Centralia and around Thurston County, streets were flooding and Washington National Guard members were helping with filling sand bags and other requests, the guard said on Twitter.

In northwest Washington, snow was falling in Bellingham while roadways were flooding throughout Whatcom County. Exceptionally high tides and winds were causing coastal flooding around homes in Birch Bay, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.

In northwest Oregon, coastal flooding after heavy rains disrupted communities. Astoria got more than 4 inches (10.1 cm) of rain Thursday, breaking a record for rain on that date set in 1914.

The nearby city of Warrenton declared a state of emergency due to widespread flooding and school districts in Astoria, Warrenton, Knappa and Seaside canceled classes Friday.

In Oregon, Interstate 84 reopened after a landslide closed almost 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the highway from Troutdale to Hood River on Thursday.

A flash flood watch is in effect now for the Columbia River Gorge and more snow is expected later in the day. Officials also expect smaller landslides throughout Friday.

Forecasters say the rains should subside over the weekend.

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